The Value of Art Therapy in Outpatient Mental Health

by Nathania Rodman

The research used a retrospective arts-based phenomenological approach to consider the question: what are therapeutic benefits of integrating art therapy into an outpatient mental health program within the hospital setting? This research was approved under the Research Ethics Board of the Hospital. The thesis includes nine directives implemented with a person centered humanistic worldview. Data includes two group processes each of six sessions, one early after the establishment of the group and the other six months later, near the end of the researcher’s internship; and an in-depth case study on one specific participant who attended all possible six sessions of one three week group cycle.  

The researcher used a selective approach to thematic analysis to discover the underlying themes and benefits from the data. The findings affirmed the benefits of integrating art therapy into a hospital outpatient mental health program. These therapeutic benefits realized included: supporting transition to community through Yalom and Leszcz (2005) therapeutic factors and the therapeutic presence of an art therapist; providing trust building and increased self esteem through creating a safe space and art facilitating the non verbal to verbal; and that enhanced resistance, empowerment, wellness, personal growth and insight can be made in short term therapy. Thus, this research speaks to the importance and value of having an art therapy group in an outpatient mental health program. The hope is the thesis will provide further insight into the importance that art therapy has within a hospital and community mental health programs.